If you saw Oprah last Thursday, you heard how military families are not getting the thanks and the support they deserve. Finding out that 1 percent of our population is protecting 99 percent of our population was pretty shocking.
I feel the women in the military are getting a particularly raw deal. They seem to be invisible. Similar to civilian women, they aren't promoted as quickly, are subject to sexual harassment and, as a result, suffer deep emotional wounds that penetrate every part of their being. I was shocked to also learn that the suicide rate for women returning from a deployment is much higher than it is for the men.
My interest in women in the military is new. Up until two months ago, I couldn't have given you the name of any women serving our country. Now all that has changed. My blog TheRealCougarWoman.com has attracted the attention of a group of women serving in Afghanistan and they have started to send me emails. They tell me they read my blog everyday because it inspires them and reminds them how powerful they are. They call themselves the "combat cougars" and have started a Real Cougar Club at Camp Eggers in Afghanistan.
Needless to say, having them reach out to me tugged on my heartstrings in a pretty profound way. I made a choice to start caring. I had to find a way to show them my appreciation for their service. Here's what I did:
I asked jewelry designer Patty Tobin to design a "shining service bracelet" for these fabulous females and she agreed. It's a black and white Belgian crystal stunner and I sent boxes with them for Christmas and they loved them. Then, I got other civilian women to buy bracelets for themselves and I sent another one on their behalf to a woman serving. I made sure that every bracelet sent contained their name and email so a friendship could begin. With that small gesture, women started helping women.
It doesn't take much to make these military heroes feel appreciated and supported when their deployment is over. It could be a small gesture like treating her to a relaxing spa day. My intention is to start a "shining service program" that will focus on health, beauty, finances, relationships and spirituality. Right now, I'm conducting interviews so I can better understand their needs.
I have also started a dialogue with the United Service Organizations Inc. and I'm working to develop new support initiatives with them. I don't know where all this is going, but I can tell you it feels great to know that I can make a difference in some small way.
Follow Linda Franklin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RealCougarWoman